September 16, 2007 Issue

Physics To Go 33 - Spinning fluid

« Previous issue         Issue Archive         Next issue »

Physics in Your World

Wing Vortex Wake image
photo credit: NASA; image source

Wing Vortex Wake

This photo (hi-res version) shows the vortex wake behind a small propeller plane.  To learn more about this photo, visit Wing Vortex Wake.

The energy in the vortex behind the wing comes at the expense of the aircraft's speed, so minimizing these vortices is important for aircraft design. To learn more,, see the Smithsonian's Vortex Drag.

(This feature was updated on July 16, 2013.)

Login to Comment on this Item

Physics at Home

Air Cannon

You can build your own "vortex generator" with just a few simple, household materials.  The PBS' Air Cannon shows how to build an air cannon from a plastic bag, bucket, and rubber bands--just be sure to have an adult working with you.  There is even a poll so that you can report your results and compare them with what others found.

(This feature was updated on June 28, 2010)


From Physics Research

Model of Insect Wings' Wake Vortex image
photo credit: Yakov Afanasyev; image source

Model of Insect Wings' Wake Vortex

This photo (hi-res version) shows the wake of an insect model towed in water, with magnetic forces simulating the effect of the insect's beatings wings. For a different kind of investigation of insect flight, see Michael Dickinson's Fly-o-Rama, which includes a robotic fly and a flight simulator for flies.

(This feature was updated on July 16, 2013.)

Worth a Look

Vortices Image Gallery

To see some interesting images of vortices, visit Image Gallery-Vortices from the University of Iowa.

Recent Submissions